The world of MBA admissions is demanding. Not only do you have to submit materials that prove you’re a world-class candidate, but you also have to figure out a way to stand out from the rest of the applicants and ensure that the admissions committee remembers you. Unfortunately, standing out can sometimes feel like an impossible feat, especially now, where the number of applicants have been rising by double digits and where the caliber of applicants is as good as it’s ever been.
This post comes as my second in a short response to an applicant’s question about writing business school essays. My first post (click here to read the first two tips on MBA essays) addressed the idea of how to get started. And this post speaks more about how to stand out, so that the admissions committee remembers you. Because in the end, admissions committees have to read hundreds of personal statements in any given year, thousands over their lifetimes, so they can see good essays and bad ones usually within minutes of reading, if not sooner. And often times these statements are what differentiate two candidates who are otherwise equal on paper. Here are a couple more tactics that can help ensure that your essays stand out from the rest of the pile.
1. Be Specific. Conventional wisdom says that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. So admissions committees will look at what you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished, assuming it’s likely you’ll continue on a similar trajectory. As such, MBA admissions committees want to know more about your past. But the mistake most applicants make is simply telling the committee what they’ve done. Instead, admissions officers are thirsty for the details of your story, and you should be as specific as possible when you tell your story. That means avoiding giving impressions and writing generalizations when possible. And it also means spending time brainstorming the specifics of the stories you write about, so you can write with more precision once you’re ready to begin the essays.
2. Be personal. Part of being specific also means being personal – articulating what you thought, felt, said and did, and how you made your decisions. Having read a large number of essays over the years, in my view, the best essays tend to include very personal facts because those are ultimately most engaging to the reader. This is especially important for older candidates who may have taken time off before law school, so committees may want to know more about them and their unique experiences and their personal (i.e. later) decision to attend business school. It will also be useful for non-traditional candidates, where committees may be looking to understand what made you apply to business school.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this year shaping up to be competitive, so you should do your best to write the best MBA essay possible.
Be sure check back here, at jeremycwilson.com, for more essay and interview tips over the next few weeks.